As I am writing this article, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and a few other major financial institutions are teetering on the brink. The federal government thus far has decided it could not afford to bail out Lehman Brothers in the same manner as their bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Also, the federal government failed to secure the floor and facilitate a deal for either Bank of America or Barclays to buy out Lehman Brothers.

As predicted, the subprime market adjustment is causing a domino effect that is threatening the stability of the entire U.S. economic system. The U.S. purchases of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are only band-aids on a cancer since they merely enable these institutions to continue functioning, but do nothing to facilitate the selling of more mortgages. (Because almost half of all U.S. mortgages come from these two institutions, the federal government had no choice but to bail them out!)

Today the U.S. government had to draw a line in the sand and make the tough decision of not bailing out Lehman Brothers, most probably because the U.S. Treasury does not have unlimited savings, and to print money would increase the level of inflation, further eroding the economy and weakening the dollar. I have been saying for the past year that the worst is yet to come, and I still feel that other major adjustments are coming down the pike that will shake the entire global economy. (As of today the European Union also experienced a major stock plunge!)

I believe the current economic shakeup is part of the wider adjustment God has been doing for the past two and a half years in all facets of society (just look at all the scandals in the church, politics, sports, celebrities, etc.)  Although there has been a shake-up across the board, the Bible teaches us that “judgment must begin first with the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). As we look at Scriptural references to visitations from God, we see that His visits not only result in revival and renewal but also judgment and adjustments (read Exodus 13:19; Amos 5:18; Luke 21:20-22)! The church and the world will eventually learn that God not only functions as a masseuse but also as a chiropractor! That is to say, sometimes, in order for long-term health, He has to adjust His body and even crack some bones!

Along with this, the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Thus, the state of our culture is really a reflection on how effective (or ineffective) the body of Christ has been in transforming society and discipling the nations.
In light of this present economic shakeup, I see parallels between the state of the church and what is happening in our nation. For years now, much of the preaching in America’s pulpits has accommodated the “me first” consumer driven mentality of the American culture (echoed strongly by media marketing) so that we could experience church growth. (Instead of merely changing the world with wise methodology, we are also looking to the world for our theological standards!)

Consequently, much preaching regarding financial prosperity has emphasized our “right” to be blessed instead of the biblical teaching that wealth will be entrusted only to those who use it to confirm His covenant and empower the poor (Deuteronomy 8:18; Luke 10:25-37; Psalm 72:3-4). Thus, the church went from emphasizing stewardship to a “me first” mentality when dealing with wealth.

This has weakened our standards, watered down the Gospel, and perpetuated a false sense of security among some high-level leaders because they lack the fear of the Lord! These leaders continue to minister in spite of living lavish double lives, having numerous affairs without repentance and accountability, and obtaining unbiblical divorces. They are leaving behind a huge trail of Christians who are apostatizing, becoming disillusioned and leaving the church, or living a double life while denying the full counsel of God. (How can they know the full counsel of God if their shepherds never mention hell, repentance, holiness, or taking up the cross!)

This superficial approach in church to accommodate the masses for the past 20 years has now been replicated in the infrastructure and ethos of American enterprise because, instead of being prophets that craft American culture with the biblical ethos, we have gone to bed with this consumerist lifestyle and are called whores and adulterers by the Apostle James in his epistle (read James 4:3-10).

Preaching prosperity and blessing without accountability to biblical stewardship, sacrifice, and going to the cross of Christ for deliverance from fleshly passions may have quick results and gain many followers. But, like the unethical subprime practices, it has no long-term sustainability. May God help the church as His bride to repent and once again become the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Joseph Mattera